Light is coming


Each day in December I have been sharing my thoughts and heart for what this season means to me. I hope you have enjoyed the posts and my new book Twelve Days.

After each post and also in each chapter of the new book – I include a song you may or may not have ever heard – that I hope you have also enjoyed or perhaps pondered the lyrics more deeply.

Today is a new day. Yesterday was the winter solstice. It was the darkest day, the longest night. Every day this fall leading to yesterday got a bit darker. I certainly felt it. Daylight savings for sure was a doozy. Darkness.

But today? Today is 12-22-22. This is a day things change and little by little the sky gets brighter…

Christmas is coming – over 2000 years ago, Angels broke through heaven (“and a great light shone around them”) declaring there should be peace on this Earth and goodwill toward men.

Peace. Many don’t have it. Many seek it. Many wonder when it will be coming.

Soldiers are across the world today protecting our peace and freedoms – Christmas looks different for them. Think of them and the families that wish they were together this week.

Soldiers like Charles – who joined the army to fight in the war.

Oldest of 6 children, known as Charley by his family.

Two years before joining the military, Charley’s mom died in a tragic fire. Her clothing started on fire, her husband tried to extinguish it, but she had already suffered severe burns.

Charley’s dad suffered such severe burns himself trying to save his wife, that he was unable to even make it to the funeral. He even had to grow a beard to hide his own burns.

Charley’s dad went into a depression and feared that he would need significant counseling. Can you imagine watching your most treasured love one burn alive? Horrific.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Charley’s dad received a letter not long after his son enlisted, that he had been shot through his left shoulder with the bullet exiting the right – Charley had avoided being paralyzed by only an inch.

On Christmas Day, there sat Charley’s dad – a 57-year-old widow with 6 kids. He struggled with significant dissonance in his own heart; losing a wife, now taking care of a severely wounded son, looking at the world so full of hate, injustice, division and war, and yet wanted and needed to find the glory in the season.

He wrote in a journal, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays. I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace. ‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

Later, he heard some church bells and carolers singing of “peace on Earth and goodwill toward men”. These words seemed to mock the situation of the world, the government, leadership (or the lack of it), local/national/global communities, and life in general.

Maybe it feels the same for you too…

The world continues to turn; we wake up, work, spend only a few spare moments with people we care about, go to sleep, and start over again. Something just feels different this year.

Does it feel like it is just a repeat every day? Do you look at this season and think – it is all just bah-humbug? Do you look at our country, our government, our communities, our relationships – as something that is just disappointing?

Maybe you are torn between different families this holiday season, or it just does not feel as magical as it did when you were a kid.

Then – there are the children starving around the world, kids are being trafficked and abused, refugees trying to find safety and peace, disease consuming lives of many here and afar, war never ceases, threats of terrorism continue to grow…when does it get better?

You could bow your head in despair like Charley’s dad did. After he heard those carolers, he literally said, “there is no peace on Earth. For hate is strong, and mocks this song of peace on Earth goodwill toward men.”

BUT THEN – the bells grew louder, the song got stronger, his heart grew softer, his soul shone brighter, and he lifted his head….something had stirred.

Then he said, “God is NOT dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on Earth, goodwill to men.”

Charley’s dad was famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

He wrote the poem “I heard the bells on Christmas Day” in 1863.

Charley was a union soldier of the Civil War who joined the war without his father’s blessing. He wrote his dad a letter from afar saying that he wanted to lay his life down for his country. In that letter, he wrote, “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.”

Friends: Jesus was born into a dark and broken world, made it His first duty to show us love, how to live, and how to get back from whence we came. He willingly laid down his life for us – not wondering if it would be of any good, but knowing it was the ONLY way good would destroy evil.

Maybe you feel like Jesus is in a galaxy far, far away.

Maybe you feel He doesn’t care, doesn’t hear you, doesn’t know you – but He does.

This season is about God our Father, thanking Him for the many blessings He bestows upon us, including the greatest gift ever given to mankind – His one and only Son, that whoever will just simply pause and quiet their hearts, believe in Him, and want to know Him – will never have to worry that their own eternity would not be full of peace and goodwill.

Come – let us adore Him. Come – let Him speak to you. Come – He is waiting.

Take the gift.

Don’t let your hardened heart not hear the choir singing…your eyes not see the light shining…or your inner soul and spirit not confidently know that the everlasting Holy One is calling you back to Him.

My Christmas wish is that you also find peace in your heart and homes this holiday season.

I wish the same for me.

And if you don’t have it right now – don’t lose hope or sight that the One that came that first Christmas morning, will be coming again – to take us back to a place where there are no more tears, no fears, no fighting, no hurting, no crying. Fix your eyes on Him.

Hear the bells.

This season is about knowing Him more, loving Him more, and becoming more like Him.

“Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).

Please PLEASE listen to the song in the first comment below. Maybe you will hear it a different way now that you know the story. THEN read the post after that. There’s more to the story above. You will read a bit more history of what happened that fateful day in the Longfellow household.

Light is coming.

12-22-22: Light is coming

Are what you ‘want’ and ‘need’ the same?

I’ve always been a pretty calculated person.

I also realize some people don’t work nearly as hard, or care as intensely as I do about doing something with excellence. It’s actually been an important lesson for me to learn.

I’m also fairly bold in business. This has been a strength and also a growth area.

Persistence and focus were paramount when I started my career many years ago.

I once sent my résumé by fax (there was no email or LinkedIn back then – hahahahah) to the president of a very high profile and powerful organization – 8 times.

I got the call back.
I got the job.

I envisioned what I wanted, was persistent in my pursuit, and truly wanted the opportunity.

We don’t always get what we want – but I do believe we get what we need.

What I have learned in life is if you treat people well, and deposit value into them – the help given by you returns dividends tenfold back to you.

Most importantly I put my faith in God and everything I do I intend to execute to live in the service of my ultimate purpose on earth.

What I am pondering about this verse is that we don’t always get the desires of our heart. If they are not in sync with what is pleasing to God – we may not get what we want – but what we need.

That job I wanted? Turned out to not be what I thought it would be. But I learned big time hard lessons from it.

This is just my own reflection and I continue to try to trust more and have more faith over my life and journey.

Psalm 37:4-5 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.”

Importance of Leadership Humility


Each morning I start my day by looking at the “verse of the day” and then trying to understand its context in the chapter it came from.

The verse today is below from 1 Peter. My morning thoughts are on the full chapter 5.

This chapter was written for elders – but applicable to managers and leaders in business, as well as application in our personal lives as friends and family members. It urges us to take care of the people we are responsible for – because the people – are all God’s flock.

Managers and leaders are shepherds and servants.

The instructjon is for us to watch over people because we WANT to, not because we HAVE to.

Do you manage people?
Do you take that role to heart?
Do you watch the flock because you have to, or want to?

The text is very plain – it says to lead people because you are happy to serve, not because you want money.

Don’t be a ruler over people, but rather be a good example to them.

Think of the ways Christ led – not by force but by Love.

The chapter doesn’t end there – there’s a lesson for young people as well. It instructs them to accept authority of the elders and to be humble with each other.

When we are humble – God is pleased and will lift us up when the right time comes.

Sometimes the timing isn’t what we wish for – but it’s perfect as it’s His timing.

This is a hard lesson for me sometimes – the waiting.

However in the very next verse – we are reminded to not worry about anything because God cares for each of us.

The Text shifts here to warn us against the enemy – he comes to attack our self control, to make us wish for something more, to entice us to stray from what is good and what is from God.

We are not alone in this struggle.

All over the entire Earth people deal with these same problems.

Power is – well – powerful.
Just look at what is happening in the news lately over the most “powerful” world leaders and how they’re all conducting themselves.

Don’t dismay. There’s more to the chapter – it instructs us to stand strong in faith for He will keep us from failing – through His grace, power is His alone forever.

Stand strong in that Grace.
Be united with others.
We are all in this together and can’t do everything alone.

Even in this chapter – Peter needed Silas to deliver the letter to the elders.
He could depend on him and trusted him.
Not only Silas was involved, but the last part of the chapter said the entire church of Babylon sent greetings as well as a special call out from Mark.

Peace and love to you.


We don’t take enough time to appreciate breathing.

The person who lives to 80 will take about 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime.

We all take about 16 breaths per minute. So why not take just a portion of a minute right now and focus on your breathing.

Go ahead. Try it. Breathe slowly in, fill your lungs with air, pause, now release the air slowly. Your body does this unconsciously. But focus on it for just a few more breathes.

TIP: Breathe in count of 8, hold count of 3, breathe out count of 8, pause.

Breathe in – all the way in! Let it out.


Breathe in. Let it out – all the way out!


Notice the movement of your mind as you consciously breathe in. It isn’t just air, it is nourishment and oxygen for your life.

This time as you breathe in – think of something positive and bring it into your being. Breathe out anything that is not positive. Breathing in affirmations has proven to have tremendous positive results in many people.

Try it again.

Breathe in – all the way! Let it out – all the way out!


Breath in. Let it out.


Now that you focused on your breath and breathing, express gratitude…and go back to the busy-ness of your day!

Whenever you remember, try this again! Practicing conscious breathing helps us think more clearly, reduces stress/anxiety, helps you sleep better, and can even relieve pain!

Many common health ailments can be at least somewhat alleviated simply by making a conscious effort to breathe slowly and deeply. These include high blood pressure, migraine headaches, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, depression, asthma

Do you want to learn more about mindfulness, emotional intelligence, search inside yourself, or just explore what coaching may be like?

School of Thoughts has multiple trainers and coaches certified in these techniques. Reach out here for more info.

Leaving a GOOD Footprint at the Northland Fully Alive 5k!

fullalive5k (1)

Get your running (or walking) shoes on for our first-ever Fully Alive 5K!

This is a family-friendly run/walk that starts and ends at Northland’s main building. There’s also a free Kids’ Fun Run beginning at 8:45 am. Bring the whole gang out to celebrate with our community.  It will be a fun time with great friends, food and fitness!

Race Schedule:
6:15-7:00 am: Race Day Registration and Packet Pick-Up
7:30 am: 5K Run/Walk (This is a timed event)
8:45 am: Free Kids’ Run (10 and under)
9:30 am: Awards Presentation

Packet Pick Up:
Pre race packet pick-up will be held at Fleet Feet at 303 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Springs on Thursday and Friday from 11:00 am to 6:00pm.
Race Day Registration and Packet Pick-Up from 6:15-7:00 am.

Entry Fee:
Registration before May 1:  $25
Registration race morning:  $30
Kids Fun Run (10 and under):  Free

Medals will be presented to the top Male and Female finishers and the TOP THREE in the following age groups: 11 and Under, 12 – 15, 16 – 19, 20 – 29, 30 -39,  40 – 49, 50 – 59, 60 – 69, and 70 and Over.

Paid participants will receive a Fully Alive 5K t-shirt & swag bag. (Those who register after May 3rd are not guaranteed a t-shirt)

All kids need to be registered on race morning and parents or guardians need to sign a waiver.

For safety reasons, in-line skates, skateboards, and bikes will not be allowed in the race.

Thanks to our sponsors Fleet Feet!

Northland will be partnering with S.T.E.P. (Save the Earth Projects) at the Fully Alive 5K with the Leave a GOOD Footprint (TM) gently used shoe program!

S.T.E.P. impacts both local and global communities through several different service projects, including collecting shoes that are sent to vulnerable communities in underdeveloped countries. You can definitely donate your old running shoes but any shoes are welcome!

(any size of paired gently-used shoes are welcome. Please no crocs, flip flops, fuzzy slippers, skates, winter boots. If you are unsure or have questions, you can email or comment in the post on S.T.E.P.’s FB)

You can learn more about the work S.T.E.P. does here: or

Check out the route map HERE!

‍Don’t know how to start training? Print our couch to 5k training plan HERE

Want to volunteer for the 5k? Sign up to serve HERE

The essence of Pi (3.14 etc)

Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.Pi is a constant number, meaning that for all circles of any size, Pi will be the same. The diameter of a circle is the distance from edge to edge, measuring straight through the center.


It struck me that a circle has a beginning and an end perhaps, but perhaps there is no beginning or end – it just is. No matter the size of the circle, the ratio of the circle will always be the same.

It got me thinking…

Romans 8:38 says that no height or depth, no power in the sky above or below, no other creation, nothing – can ever separate us from God (that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord). Ephesians 3:18 is a prayer to us that says may we have the power to understand and comprehend the length, width, height, and depth of Christ’s love for us.

In honor of Pi Day, I am going to share each of the 3rd chapter and 14th verses of the New Testament. Maybe you will read this in a whole new way…

  1. (Matthew) Then Jesus appeared asking John to baptize Him. John objected saying it was he that needed to be baptized.
  2. (Mark) Jesus chose 12 men to be with Him and to be sent out into the world to tell God’s message and He gave them authority to banish demons.
  3. (Luke) Soldiers asked Jesus how to live. He said, don’t use force or lies, shakedowns or blackmail to get people to give you money. Be happy with what you earn.
  4. (John) No one person has ever been in the presence of God except for the One person that was sent from Heaven to Earth. Jesus was sent so that we may see Him and believe. He was lifted back up to Heaven with the promise if we believed in Him, we would have eternal life with Him and become in the presence of the Almighty with Him.
  5. (Acts) Peter spoke to a crowd admonishing them that Jesus was holy and good, and yet they chose to disown Him, and selecting a MURDERER to be set free, rather than the Son of God
  6. (Romans) We are all sinners. Not one person lives right. Our tongues pollute the air and litter the land. The message version says “whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.”
  7. (1 Corinthians) Every builder who builds on a sound foundation with solid materials, whose work still stands, will receive a reward. You are God’s house. Christ is the foundation. Be careful in picking out the building materials so the house will stand and pass storms and inspections.
  8. (2 Corinthians) People’s minds and hearts were veiled (covered) and blinded to the understanding of what the scriptures actually meant to their lives and to their eternity. The veil of misunderstanding comes only through believing in Jesus Christ.
  9. (Galatians) Because of what Jesus Christ did (absorbing all of our sins (all of them) to himself), God’s promise was given to all people (not some, all). Christ died to that by believing in Him and by faith, we could receive the spirit and have eternal life in Heaven.
  10. (Philippians) Press on and run hard to the finish line to get the prize that is yours. God is calling and beckoning us to Heaven through Jesus (and what He did for us).
  11. (Colossians) The most important thing in life is to love each other. Love is what binds us all into unity. Let love guide your life.
  12. (2 Thessalonians) Take special note of anyone who does not obey what is said in this letter. But don’t treat him as an enemy. Sit him down and talk about the problem as someone who cares.
  13. (1 Timothy) Paul shared that he hoped to come to the people soon, but is writing the letter now to ensure the readers would know to live. Although God is a mystery, far exceeding our understanding, a few things are clear: He appeared on Earth in a human body (Jesus), was proved right by the invisible Spirit, was seen by angels. He was proclaimed among all kinds of peoples, believed in all over the world, taken up into heavenly glory.
  14. (2 Timothy) Continue to follow the teaching you are learning and believe what you were taught since you can trust who was teaching you. The written word shows you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. The message version says, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.”
  15. (Titus) Devote yourself into doing good in order to not lead unproductive lives. When you help people in need, your life won’t be empty.
  16. (Hebrews) ERV version says, “We have the honor of sharing in all that Christ has if we continue until the end to have the sure faith we had in the beginning.”
  17. (James) If you are selfish, bitter, envious, or have jealousy in your heart, don’t boast about that and brag about how wise, good and smart you are. That is just a lie. Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts.
  18. (1 Peter) Even if you suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Don’t fear threats or be frightened. If with your heart and soul you are doing good, God sees that. The message version says “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.”
  19. (2 Peter) Look forward to what is coming. Try to be at peace with God. Make every effort to live good. Do your very best to be living at your best in purity and peace.
  20. (1 John) Anyone who doesn’t have love in his heart, has death. If you hate another child of God, you are like a murderer.
  21. (Revelation) This is Jesus’ letter to the
  22. church in Laodicea: “These are the words of (a message from) the Amen,  God’s Yes, the faithful, accurate and true witness of all that was, is, and forevermore shall be, the First of and ruler of God’s creation and all that He made.”

He knows us, inside and out. From beginning to end. From east to west. North to south. The circumference. The Pi. He was, is, and will ever be. We can know Him and be made known by Him. He is knocking…perhaps you are seeking. These are just the 3rd chapters and 14th verses of each book of the New Testament up above. But there is so much depth and wisdom in just 21 total verses. Fix your eyes, open your heart and mind…your life will change. Mine did. I am forever grateful knowing my eternity is secured and promised.

Lord thank you for the continued discernment and illumination. May Your words touch the heart and mind of the person reading this post and may it bring You glory and honor. Thank you for allowing me to be but a simple vessel, a lamp. I am not the light, just the vehicle to shine it. Thank you for grace, loving me, and forgiving me daily. Amen.

You don’t have to have something to start something.

17-year-old founder of Save the Earth Projects wrote this speech to honor Dr. King when she was 12 years old and in the 6th grade. Olivia offers us all advice on how best to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (from the BK Nation @BKNationOrg website):

“You Don’t Need to HAVE Something to START Something.”

This week as we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the impact he and his friends had on the civil rights movement, we should think about our responsibilities to those rights. It is our responsibility to be moved to action to continue to make our world a better place to live and to help our fellow citizens. But how?

You don’t need to HAVE something to START something.

What you need is inside of you. It’s your heart, and your thoughts, and your imagination, and your willingness to work to achieve a goal.

I started something because I had lost almost everything in a FEMA disaster when I was only eight years old.

It would have been easy to look at obstacles and what I couldn’t do instead of the opportunities of what I could do.

Obstacles present opportunities.

Obstacles allow you to stop and think of a way to get around them. They help you to think more creatively and come up with a new way of doing things. Your ideas, hopes and dreams are important – so you have to turn “can’t” into “can”, and “no” into “go”.

To get started all you need is an idea and the belief that you “can” start a project or movement and get ready to “go” forward.

This is how I got started with Save the Earth Projects, which I call S.T.E.P.

I played soccer for the YMCA. I knew that there were kids in my town that couldn’t afford to play, and that the Y offered scholarships, but just didn’t have enough money for everyone in need. I also knew that 100,000 kids die every year around the world because they don’t have shoes. I decided to partner with the Y to solve two problems. For every pound of shoes collected from the hundreds of kids that participate at the Y, the Y earned $.50 per pair. Additionally, the thousands of pairs of shoes that were collected were sent around the world to people really in need. Together, we were able to leave a GOOD footprint.

If I had done nothing, we would have nothing.

The more people that find out about S.T.E.P., the more the word spreads. People all around the country have been collecting shoes. In just one year I have now been able to collect about 5500 pair of shoes. That is more than 5000 people who now have a pair of shoes and many organizations have money they didn’t have before. I have been able to talk about S.T.E.P. on the radio, for civic organizations, and for youth conferences.

Remember what I wrote earlier? I didn’t need to have something, to do something. I only needed to know that I could change something that was important to me, even if it was one pair of shoes at a time. It’s really about having an idea and turning that idea into action. Action for good. Not bad.

Mostly I was helping people to learn about something important that they might not have known, that they could change someone’s life, and decrease space in landfills by just donating a pair of unwanted shoes.

I already have future projects planned including S.T.E.P. up to the plate community gardens, and S.T.E.P. up against bullies. I am hoping even some of you will want to join me in either my projects, or creating your OWN Save the Earth Projects. The best thing that I have learned from creating STEP is that I can make a difference.

Many people are still fighting for civil rights around the world from people fighting for basic human rights in South Africa, to women fighting for equal rights in Saudi Arabia, Cambodia and Syria, to people in the USA and Russia fighting for basic rights for same sex marriages and health insurance benefits and more. Civil rights are violated in oppressive societies. When we receive those rights we have a responsibility to exercise them and be thankful for them.

If you see something that is just not right, do something about it. It is about action. Action for good. Not bad.

You CAN make a BIG difference.

Everything I need, to be able to do what I want to do, is inside of me and everything you need is inside of you. Join me and take a stand by making a S.T.E.P. and leave this world better than when you got here.


Olivia Russo-Hood is a 17-year-young leader and founder of Save the Earth Projects (S.T.E.P.). S.T.E.P. is a youth social entrepreneurship idea organizing social change. Corporate businesses typically focus on profit and return, whereas social enterprises also measure the returns to society. Olivia joins with peers across the nation in partnership with a variety of organizations as an effort to raise awareness about local, national and global issues, while also maintaining a goal of helping to raise funds for local charities.

Add breadth to the length

“What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; (Go ahead) sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill, be a scrub in the valley—but be the best little scrub on the side of the hill,

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a highway just be a trail

If you can’t be the sun be a star;

It isn’t by size that you win or fail—

Be the best of whatever you are.

And when you do this, when you do this, you’ve mastered the length of life. (Yes)

This onward push to the end of self-fulfillment is the end of a person’s life. Now don’t stop here, though. You know, a lot of people get no further in life than the length. They develop their inner powers; they do their jobs well. But do you know, they try to live as if nobody else lives in the world but themselves? (Yes) And they use everybody as mere tools to get to where they’re going. (Yes) They don’t love anybody but themselves. And the only kind of love that they really have for other people is utilitarian love. You know, they just love people that they can use. (Well)

A lot of people never get beyond the first dimension of life. They use other people as mere steps by which they can climb to their goals and their ambitions. These people don’t work out well in life. They may go for awhile, they may think they’re making it all right, but there is a law. (Oh yeah) They call it the law of gravitation in the physical universe, and it works, it’s final, it’s inexorable: whatever goes up can come down. You shall reap what you sow. (Yeah) God has structured the universe that way. (Yeah) And he who goes through life not concerned about others will be a subject, victim of this law.

So I move on and say that it is necessary to add breadth to length. Now the breadth of life is the outward concern for the welfare of others, as I said. (Yeah) And a man has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow confines of his own individual concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

-The Honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Lessons of wisdom in carpentry

How firm is your foundation?

Foundations (or earth) are necessary when building something. They are a “foothold””on the earth to support the weight of a structure evenly so that it remains intact.

Things are in constant motion. Have you ever been in a building that is built properly to withstand earthquakes or strong winds and sometimes feel it rocking?

A building will always move when it is built. It can sink, rise, slide, or combine these motions if they are not equally balanced with the foundation they are built on.

Think of it this way, foundations ensure that the load of a building is spread evenly over the ground underneath the building so that the walls won’t separate.

Another purpose of a foundation is to anchor and tie the different parts of the building together so that it does not sink unevenly and crack. The foundation anchoring itself to the building helps prevent structures from moving sideways – especially when the ground is uneven.

You can’t see the foundation. It’s usually covered up by tile or carpet or wood. But it’s purpose regardless if you can see it – is to keep you safe.

Without foundations buildings would fall over.